Will this be the year in which Fox's always challenging autumn schedule finally steps up to the level of its mighty midseason? Fox Entertainment President Kevin Reilly thinks so.
"The history of Fox has been a patchy fall," Reilly acknowledged Friday during his session at the Summer 2011 Television Critics Association tour. "We won the fall for the first time in the history of the network two seasons ago. We did that with the momentum of Glee and some strong post-season baseball. I think we're teed up for strong baseball again this year. We have the ALCS this year that, historically, rates stronger than the National League. If we get that Red Sox/Yankees thing again, that will be helpful.
"And then you look at our crop," he continued. "I mean, is The X-Factor the mother of all shows? Absolutely. [No argument there. The session for The X-Factor that preceded Reilly was the highlight of Fox's TCA day, due in no small part to the contributions of executive producer and star Simon Cowell – and he wasn't even in the room, appearing instead via satellite.]
"If [X-Factor] can do half of what we hope it will do in the fall, Fox is going to be really, really difficult for the other guys to reckon with," Reilly declared.
Fox's baseball "problem" was a hot topic, especially with a potential blockbuster competition series like The X-Factor and the long-awaited Terra Nova running at the same time. "Our baseball package is a much leaner package [than in the past]," Reilly said. "It does take some fancy footwork with the schedule. There are a few weeks there when you're butting up against potentially six or seven games when it gets tight, and The X-Factor will shift to Tuesday night [from Wednesday] at some point. But we're not in that old fashioned Fox thing where baseball just comes in and cuts a swath through our schedule. A lot of the games fall on the weekends. So baseball's become pretty manageable. It's trickier now with The X-Factor, but we will have a full plate of entertainment [starting] in premiere week and staying on straight through the fall."
The X-Factor was very much on the minds of TCA members, but the other giant on Fox's fall schedule, the big-budget, perpetually delayed and wildly ambitious science-fiction adventure Terra Nova, about people from the distant future (when the Earth is largely in ruins) who are transported by the government via a rift in the time line back to the days of the dinosaurs to in effect start the whole rise and fall of humanity thing all over again and try to get it right the second time (or something like that).
"We know about the noise that Terra Nova is gonna make," Reilly said. "Whether it will work or not, that show is just not going to come on quietly. It's going to get sampled, and it's going to be really different than anything else on the air."
Speaking about Fox overall, Reilly politely boasted, "We're not a one show network. We are a seven night a week network … Look at where we were last spring. We were either winning or highly competitive seven nights of the week. Even on Friday where we had virtually been dark over many seasons, Fringe and Kitchen Nightmares became a winning combo."
The X-Factorand Terra Nova are commanding the spotlight, but there is another new show that Reilly is particularly interested in: The Zooey Deschanel comedy The New Girl. (The critics share his enthusiasm. Many are already naming it their favorite new broadcast series of the fall.) "We're going to be a force in comedy this year," he declared. "I've been talking about it for four years with you guys. I haven't loved all the moves we've made. We've had some misfires. But we're finally looking at the comedy profile that I'd hoped the network would have, between Raising Hope and New Girl and some of the things we're going to be adding in the second half of the year."
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